tales of love sex betrayal and triangular relationship, moral - never tell you're just experimenting even as joke when other party is dead serious?
By Cameron Austin firstname.lastname@example.org 381-8621
CHRISTIANSBURG — After an eight-hour sentencing hearing Monday, Jessica Michelle Ewing, a former Virginia Tech student and Corps of Cadets member was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the 2014 killing of fellow student Samanata Shrestha.
Judge Robert Turk sentenced to Ewing to 80 years for first-degree murder and five years for transporting and concealing a body. After Ewing serves 45 years, the rest will be suspended, Turk ruled. She will be on probation for 20 years after her release. Ewing was facing a minimum of 20 years and up to life in prison on the first-degree murder charge.
Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt recommended a life sentence Monday.
Ewing, 24, entered an Alford plea of guilt in February to first-degree murder — just days before her trial was scheduled to begin. Ewing’s attorney, Tyson Daniel, said that there had been great discussion about whether to go forward with a trial, but ultimately Ewing didn’t want to prolong the case and put Shrestha’s family through a trial.
The Alford plea allows Ewing to maintain innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence to make a case. Ewing also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of altering, transporting or concealing a body.
During the sentencing hearing, the defense called several witnesses to testify about Ewing’s character and the investigation. But it was Ewing herself who took the stand in order to explain in her own words what happened the night of Feb. 7, 2014, while she and Shrestha, 21, were enjoying a “date night.”
According to Ewing, the two met through school in the fall of 2013 and struck up conversations as they were waiting for their classes. Ewing was a fishery sciences and biology major, and Shrestha was a biology major.
During her testimony, Ewing walked the court through every detail of the night in question, saying that the two had planned a date night at Shrestha’s apartment, where they would cook dinner and hang out. However, the night didn’t go as planned and Ewing, who had spent hours getting ready for their “date,” was “disappointed” when she showed up wearing a dress with whipped cream and wine in hand, to find Shrestha in sweatpants and a casual shirt.
Shrestha eventually changed into a dress, which was later found with her body in the back seat of her Mercedes after she had been killed.
Despite the “off-putting mood” when Ewing arrived, they attempted to salvage the night and lighten the mood after dinner by trying to build a fort out of blankets and having a whipped cream fight. The two engaged in sexual activity after consuming a bottle of wine, according to Ewing’s testimony.
It was after that, when the two girls were lying down after their sexual activity, that Ewing made what she calls a “poor teasing comment” and called Shrestha a “spoiled b----.”
Shrestha retorted back, allegedly saying she was only “experimenting” and “toying” with Ewing, according to Ewing’s testimony. It was then that the two began physically fighting and Ewing “reached her arm around her neck and held it there,” strangling Shrestha with a chokehold, she testified.
A medical examiner had ruled that Shrestha had been killed by ligature strangulation, which is by a foreign object other than a body part. However, Daniel argued that no fibers were found on Shrestha’s neck, instead suggesting that Ewing’s story was accurate and a chokehold was used. The cause of Shrestha’s death was part of determining the guidelines for the years of her sentence.
“I loved Sam — I couldn’t believe she would say that I was some experiment to her,” Ewing said. “It hit me where I was most hurt.”
According to Ewing, there was no plan or premeditation to kill Shrestha that night, like the commonwealth had previously alleged. Texts were previously introduced that were sent to one of Ewing’s friends the night before the killing, which read, “I can’t stop this idea, it slowly creeped its way to consume my black heart. I want to let someone else decide, but ive (sic) already etched it in history.”
“I didn’t have any plan. I had no intent to kill Sam,” Ewing testified.
Alternatively, Ewing said that the text in question was regarding her own struggles with her sexuality. Ewing and Shrestha’s boyfriend, Scott Masselli, have both corroborated that Shrestha and Ewing were “exploring” their sexuality.
“I made the most horrible decision to cover it all up to hide it,” Ewing said. “I wish I had just called 911, but at that point it was too late.”
What followed after the killing was a series of encounters and conversations with several people, including former co-defendant Keifer Brown and Ewing’s Bible study teacher, Erika Holub. Daniel argued that all these encounters and the frantic nature of her actions show that she had not planned the killing at all.
“This occurred as part of a date night, not a planned murder,” Daniel argued.
Also during her testimony Monday, Ewing spent time explaining her own personal tragedies. She said she had been sexually assaulted as a child and was raped while at a party at Virginia Tech in 2013. Adding to Ewing’s problems, she said she was kicked out of the Corps of Cadets after she was accused of hazing a student during a routine physical training exercise.
According to Ewing, she was leading a physical training exercise during which younger members would do exercises while older command leaders would yell, “Are you thirsty?” in their faces while spraying them with water from a canteen water bottle. Ewing said one cadet was, “out to get her,” and he reported her for hazing.
The incident was classified as “waterboarding,” and she was kicked out of the Corps and banned from the cadet dorms, she said. She said people were told not to speak to her.
Once removed from the Corps and after the rape, Ewing said she fell into a deep depression, saying she felt like a “ghost on campus.” She visited the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech several times, and in December 2013, Ewing was put on antidepressant medication, but only took it for a month, she said.
Daniel stressed the hurt and anguish that Ewing had experienced over her life,
Several times throughout the hearing, Ewing expressed remorse for her actions.
“She [Shrestha] was an amazing person and she should still be here today,” Ewing said through tears before sentencing was pronounced. “If I could change it all I would. She was a huge light in a lot of people’s lives.”
Ewing’s mother, Donna, two of her therapists and a former professor testified on her behalf.
“I am so deeply sorry for the family. It is a horrible loss, and our family is devastated too,” Donna Ewing said.
While the prosecution was asking for the maximum sentence of life in prison, Daniel asked Turk to consider sentencing on the low end of the guidelines, which were between 21 and 35 years in prison.
According to sentencing guidelines, the use of a weapon would have affected the amount of time Ewing would be sentenced to serve. However, Turk said ultimately, that whether Shrestha was strangled with manual or ligature force didn’t affect his sentencing.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about why and what occurred,” Turk said. But Turk said that what happened after the killing “speaks volumes,” saying that Ewing’s journal entries show a “great deal of hatred, anger and rage.”
“It created a nightmare that will never go away. There has to be justice.”
Last edited: 02-Jun-15 12:37 AM